Soldier, family resources consolidates online

NewVaGuardLogo_2mar15FORT PICKETT, Va. – Soldiers needing resources to help tackle the stresses of military life, daily priorities of family, work and home can now find all on a new webpage with a downloadable brochure as part of the Virginia Army National Guard’s Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Program, also known as R3SP.

In 2010, the Army National Guard established the R3SP Task Force to synchronize ARNG health promotion and risk reduction efforts, including procedures to review, assess and manage task action plans developed in conjunction with the Army’s Health Promotion and Risk Reduction Council.

“The R3SP really got traction in Virginia back in 2011, when I was in Iraq, the National Guard Bureau began fielding the program to all 54 states and territories,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Alvin N. Martin, Jr., state resiliency coordinator. “Virginia really got going in 2012 after the program had been fully fielded.”

Now managed by the Fort Pickett-based Directorate of Manpower and Personnel, Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia, the R3SP is top priority. The program promotes resilience, risk reduction and correspondingly decreases suicidal ideations and actions. This includes enhancing the resilience of Soldiers and families through institutionalized training, leadership awareness, and prevention and intervention programs.

“It was originally only a two-person section that really only focused on the resiliency concept, then as we went along we picked up suicide prevention and its now morphed to include substance abuse and drug testing programs,” Martin said.

The R3SP branch is now responsible for overseeing and executing resiliency training and certification, suicide prevention and outreach, substance abuse prevention and illegal substance screening.

“In all four of these avenues, the G-1 plays a crucial role in the administrative actions for Soldiers, so it makes sense to house all of these efforts under one roof,” said Martin.

The program is designed to provide a comprehensive approach to resilience and health promotion.

“A lot of our Soldier Care issues are all connected,” said Marshall D. Bradshaw, Alcohol and Drug Control Officer. “A lot of veteran suicides have elements of alcohol and substance abuse and a lot of the stressors that push people to that event are things that push on the family, problems at work, legal or financial issues, there’s just so much overlap—there’s never just one stressor that a Soldier or a family member is dealing with that is the issue.”

“Having all of these resources in one spot provides a holistic approach to resolving a host of issues, all at the same time and all at the same place,” said Lauren Newcomb, substance abuse prevention coordinator.

The webpage and downloadable brochure contains hyperlinks to a vareity of services for service members and their families in the areas of behavioral health, financial planning, crisis intervention, employment resources, substance abuse programs, grief and loss counseling, and suicide intervention and prevention resources.

In addition to the online resources, the R3SP consolidates a number of Virginia National Guard-specific programs to better enhance the services and quality of life for Soldiers and their Families.

“The Chaplain Corps’ portion of the R3SP engages and focuses on faith and how strength can be found in that faith,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col. ) J.D. Moore, state chaplain, Joint Forces Headquarters. “Our resources, such as the weekly chaplain resiliency messages attempt to engage ones faith to encourage overcoming the issues that everyone faces in life. After every posting of our Spiritual Resiliency messages, I receive positive feedback on how the spiritual resiliency message impacted their life and encouraged them to overcome. ”

“As a Chaplain, a person of the Christian-faith, I can personally testify that faith plays a fundamental part in every single day of my life and much of my resiliency is found in my personal faith,” explained Moore. “I believe that faith, the supernatural kind or self, is a part of everyone’s life.’

The chaplain’s office integrates into the R3SP by providing marriage and personal development seminars, like Gate Keepers and Strong Bonds to Soldiers, Airmen and their families.

“I was at NGB when the Soldier-Family Support Division was stood up and it was the first-time that any of these programs were put together,” said Bradshaw. “Prior to this, all these kinds of programs were sink or swim, off on their own, some were getting funding, some were getting attention, some weren’t.”

R3SP identifies and eliminates redundancies and voids in programs and services by evaluating the needs of the Virginia Army National Guard, assessing existing programs and coordinates targeted interventions.

“By bringing them all together, you have one entity looking at how each of these programs fit into Virginia,” said Bradshaw. “It allows you to analyze the needs of Virginia and prioritize those efforts and shift focus to the areas that are affecting our Soldiers, while at the same time making sure that the other programs still get the attention that they need to effectively run their programs.”

Army Regulation 350-53, Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness reads, “Resilience is the mental, physical, emotional and behavioral ability to face and cope with adversity, adapt to change, recover, learn and grow from setbacks.”

“Resiliency training improves readiness by making Soldiers better prepared to deal with the stresses of military and civilian life,” explained Martin. “It teaches us to bounce back from adversity and so often that we talk with Soldiers who hear our briefings or see our presentations and they say ‘Thank you, I needed to hear this’ and that’s truly rewarding, then we kind of feel like we are making a difference.”

Much of this training is a part of a series of mandatory training requirements that the Department of the Army and the National Guard Bureau mandate.

“All of the performance metrics are tracked in the [Digital Training Management System] where the number of trained Master Resilience Trainers and Unit Prevention Leaders, the number and frequency of mandatory briefs that are completed and the after action reports are submitted,” said Martin. “These are measureable tasks that we can track and evaluate and direct additional support where it’s needed.”

The R3SP coordinates initial and refresher training for all MRTs and UPLs across the state, Martin explained.

“We also provide Strong Choices training,” said Newcomb. “The training focuses on making choices and how those choices have the power to damage or even end lives and the lives of others,” said Newcomb. “Choices can also protect all that we care for, we can all make Strong Choices, whether that means changing our behavior, or just maintaining it.”

The Strong Choices training is a research-based drug and alcohol prevention program for the entire Army audience.

“We provide this two-hour mandatory training to units so they don’t have to worry about learning how to work the interactive software and we can provide onsite subject matter expertise to answer questions immediately,” said Newcomb.

In addition to mandatory training requirements, the R3SP branch also addresses issues affecting Soldiers and families.

“We get the most ‘bang for the buck’ during the R3SP working group,” explained Martin. “We bring in experts from the Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention program , Family Programs, the chaplain’s office, the directors of psychological health and members of several veterans service organizations to collaborate on solutions to issues that are facing our Soldiers.”

The working group meets quarterly and the recommendations of each working group meeting are briefed to the R3SP council.

“The Army Chief of Staff, commanders and command sergeant majors from every major subordinate command and members of the Office of the Adjutant General form the council and they meet to discuss and implement the working group’s ideas,” Martin said.

Continuing efforts to increase assets available to commanders to promote resilience include collaboration with national and community organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency, the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program, counselors through programs like GiveAnHour.org and members of the clergy.

“Without these programs, we feel that we’d have a lot more of the personnel and readiness issues which decrease our readiness,” Martin said. “We’d see an increase in substance abuse, an increase in suicide events, our retention rates would drop and our Soldiers would have a lower quality of life.”

The addition of the webpage and downloadable resource brochure are the first steps to growing this program, Martin explained.

“In the next few months our working group will be transitioning into a community health promotion council,” said Bradshaw. “This is the next big step for us and will elevate our user-level issues to the general officer-level and really get some traction in impacting change.”

The community health promotion council will be under the direction of the newly formed Strategic Initiatives Group.

“The sole focus of the council will be Soldier health and welfare,” said Bradshaw. “We’ll be able to identify risks and establish what the most effective use of our funds will be.”

The new webpage and downloadable brochure can be found here.

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